Process

When painting acrylic paint on linen canvas, I use either Dick Blick’s Artfix Universal linen canvas or Fredrix on the roll. Lately, I’ve been easing up on Dick Blick’s company, as our Canadian dollar is not strong next to the US dollar. I prepare the support using many times primed Golden Gesso with a top coat of Golden Absorbent Ground. Between each layer, I sand smooth the high quality Belgian linen canvas to promote a much sought after gelatinous texture. Absorbent Ground is an excellent surfacing medium that dries to a porous, paper like surface. When applying it as a top coat over gesso, it makes for a slick glazing surface, yet with ample toothlike properties for regular dry brush and air brush application. I am very fussy with my linen.

I use a limited palette of Golden Artist Fluid Acrylic, Opaque and Airbrush Colours with the same brand Acrylic Glazing Liquid, Airbrush Medium and Transparent Extender. I go through many rolls of masking tape to keep lines clean and mask out areas needing protection. I use Da Vinci acrylic synthetic and Dick Blick Masterstroke bristle for regular brush work. I use an airbrush to glaze backgrounds and window surfaces where applicable, and definitely use more medium than pigment.

All the series I create are my vision. They are hyper-real, not photo-real. I take my own photographs and use them as a primary source material for reference. For any given painting I can take up to 100 photos. I cut and paste and take from many different photos to compose one painting. I seldom paint directly from the original photograph. I make up my own reality.

I then use these photos to design the subject matter into some sort of story line. When all the images are designed, and I know where I am going and satisfied with the series, I take each image/each potential painting and grid the image into sections. For example on a work 24×36 inches, I grid and divide the complete image into 24 sections, each into 4×6 inch sections.

I enlarge each grid and print it out as a colour photocopy reference to match the size of the painting or enlarge this grid on my lap top or iPad as a means to draw and paint from. As you note, I require a tremendous amount of information. I have been known to paint every pore on someone’s face.

Because I am transferring photographic designed images into hand drawn and painted images, the flattened depiction of space is already present in the photo. In regular realism, the 3D contouring/shading is 360 degrees, and darkly shaded towards the rear of the object. In a flattened depiction of space, the contouring ends at 180 degrees and more abruptly with lighter values towards the rear.

Besides drawing with a visually flat intention, my drawing and painting methods accentuate the right side of the brain orientation. I draw and paint upside down, so as to create a shift from the left to right brain. This is the psychology training in me. I want to see the lines in relationship to each other, rather than preconceived and recognizable objects. I do not want to see what I think is there. I need to see what is really there. Working in this way is less distracting and enhances the accuracy of what I am painting. In fact I find it extremely relaxing drawing and painting this way. I feel sometimes I am in a trance.

I became a much better painter thirty years ago when I began using this upside down method. The fancy Banff School of The Arts maybe wouldn’t approve, but what the heck, it works for me. Familiar things do not look the same upside down. Our left brain expects to see things oriented in the customary way, with the right side up. In upright orientation, we recognize familiar things, name them, and categorize them by matching what we see with our stored memories and preconceptions. When an image is upside down, the visual cues don’t match. We see the shapes and the areas of light and shadow, we see the lines, instead of real objects. Overall I find this rather objective way of working within each grid as most effective. The most minutest details land up to be the most effective, and for my purposes, the most hyper-real.

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